Pantothenic acid, a part of the vitamin B complex, is water-soluble. It occurs in all living cells, being widely distributed in yeasts, molds, bacteria, and individual cells of all animals and plants. Organ meats, brewer's yeast, egg yolks, and whole-grain cereals are the richest sources. Pantothenic acid is synthesized in the body by the bacterial flora of the intestines.
There is a close correlation between pantothenic acid tissue levels and functioning of the adrenal cortex. Pantothenic acid stimulates the adrenal glands and increases production of cortisone and other adrenal hormones important for healthy skin and nerves.
Pantothenic acid plays a vital role in cellular metabolism. As a coenzyme it participates in the release of energy from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins and in the utilization of other vitamins, especially riboflavin. Pantothenic acid is an essential constituent of coenzyme A, which forms active acetate and, as such, acts as an activating agent in metabolism. Pantothenic acid is essential for the synthesis of cholesterol, steroids (fat-soluble organic compounds), and fatty acids. It is important in maintaining a healthy digestive tract.
Pantothenic acid can improve the body's ability to withstand stressful conditions. Adequate intake of panothenic acid reduces .the toxicity effects of many antibiotics. It aids in the prevention of premature and wrinkles. It also protects against cellular caused by excessive radiation.
Pantothenic acid is found in the blood, particularly in the plasma, which is the liquid part of the lymph. Pantothenic acid is excreted daily in the urine.
Approximately 33 percent of the pantothenic acid content of meat is lost during cooking and about 50 percent is lost by the milling of flour. It is easily destroyed by acid, such as vinegar, or alkali, such as baking soda.
Individual needs for pantothenic acid vary according to periods of stress, daily food intake, and urinary excretion levels. Several sources, including the National Research Council, suggest 5 to 10 milligrams daily for adults and children, respectively. The Heinz Handbook of Nutrition suggests daily requirements to be 10 to 15 milligrams.
Therapeutic dosages usually range from 50 to 200 milligrams per day. In some studies, 1000 and more rnilligrams were given daily for 6 months without side effects. It is presumed that folic acid aids in the assimilation of pantothenic acid. There are no known toxic effects with pantothenic acid.
A more-than-normal amount of pantothenic acid may be needed after injury, severe illness, or antibiotic therapy.
Deficiency Effects and Symptoms
Pantothenic acid is so widely distributed in foods that deficiency is rare. The means of detecting deficiencies are limited, although low intakes may slow down many metabolic processes.
Symptoms of a deficiency may include vomiting, restlessness, abdominal pains, burning feet, muscle cramps, sensitivity to insulin, decreased antibody formation, and upper respiratory infections.
Pantothenic acid is essential for proper functioning of the gastrointestinal tract. In some individuals, including postoperative patients, intestinal gas and abdominal distension can be relieved by more-than-aver-age amounts of pantothenic acid.
A deficiency may lead to skin disorders, adrenal exhaustion, and low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). The list of deficiency symptoms reflects impaired health of cells in many tissues. A lack of pantothenic acid
may result in duodenal ulcers. Deficiencies may occur when the body lacks the intestinal flora needed to synthesize pantothenic acid. The function of the adrenal gland is diminished, which may lead to physical and mental depression, insufficient secretions of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, and disturbances of the motor nerves. Because the brain contains one of the highest concentrations of pantothenic acid, mental symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue, and depression can be the result of a deficiency.
Beneficial Effect on Ailments
Pantothenic acid has been used successfully to treat paralysis of the gastrointestinal tract after surgery.12 It appears to stimulate gastrointestinal movement and aids in the prevention of nerve degeneration due to a deficiency. Nerve degeneration includes peripheral neuritis, nerve disorders, and epilepsy.
Blood pantothenic acid levels decrease during rheumatoid arthritis; the more severe the symptoms, the lower the acid level. Daily injections of pantothenic acid may lead to a rise in blood pantothenic acid levels. Pantothenic acid is important in the prevention of arthritis.13 It is probably the greatest defense against stress and fatigue, and it also helps build antibodies for fighting infection.